Saint Giovanni Leonardi (1541 – October 9, 1609) was founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca. He was born in the City-state of Lucca, Tuscany, in the year 1541. He was ordained as a priest in 1572. He first dedicated himself to the Christian formation of young people in his parish (Lucca).
In 1574, he founded a community charged to deepen faith and devotion; this foundation occurred as part of the movement known as the Counter-Reformation. John Leonardi worked with this community to spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, devotion to the Forty Hours, and frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist.
This foundation received approval from Pope Paul V in 1614. Giovanni Leonardi took his work to Rome where he became friends with Philip Neri. Neri held him in high regard for his qualities of firmness and judgment and entrusted him to delicate works, such as the reform of the Benedictine congregation of Montevergine.
John then founded with J. Vivès the seminary of the Propagation of the Faith. He died in 1609, dedicating himself to his brothers suffering from the influenza epidemic that was raging in Rome at the time.
The final Rule of his community was published in 1851. Two houses of the Clerks of the Mother of God were opened when he died, three others were opened during the seventeenth century. John was beatified in 1861 and canonized in 1938. St John Leonardi's feast day is celebrated on October 9.
Giovanni Leonardi, founder
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“This is what the Church is said to want, not party men, but sensible, temperate, sober, well-judging persons, to guide it through the channel of no-meaning, between the Scylla and Charybdis of Aye and no.”
—Cardinal John Henry Newman (18011890)